Women are great assets in every society. This is the view of Abdulmalik Bashir Mopelola Riskatullah, Kwara state commissioner for women affairs. He spoke in an interview with UMAR BAYO ABDULWAHAB alongside other journalists in Ilorin.
How would you describe your nine months in office as commissioner?
So far so good looking at the vision and mission of the ministry and the policy thrust of the current government in the space of nine months in office, we have been able to do our best based on the mandate given to the ministry.
I participated as the coordinator on gender for women affairs of Kwara Must Change and I also participated in the public hearing that
led to the signing of Gender Composition Law before my appointment as the commissioner for women affairs.
Gender composition law is to open the political space in the area of appointment for women, which has now scaled up the level of representation of women in the political appointment to minimum of 35 percent and maximum of 65 percent.
This implies that no government would come to this state and close the door that the current administration has opened for women.
As of today, we ration 50 to 50 representation in the cabinet of the state government. We have a-20 member cabinet, 10 of them are women and 10 are men. This is more than what the affirmative action is calling for. This is to the benefit of the women affairs. Aside that, I set up 15-member committee consisting of people from the academia, guardian and counsellors, psychologists and representatives of the popular skills to restructure the Skills Acquisition Centre of the ministry. I met it in comatose. We have now resuscitated it. As at today, 67 trainees recently graduated from the centre.That is what this government is doing to distribute social wealth.
What other programmes have you being able to embark upon?
Apart from that, I have been able to open a new template of engagement with the civil society organisations (CSOs). The usual practice was to lump everything together. We get a new template for all the over 100 CSOs especially those that are active. Now our relationship with them has improved. That is why donors like the World Bank are coming back to the state in recent times. For instance, Association for Reproductive Health (ARH) was here to partner with us on the issue of HIV/AIDS as it affects the women folks and children. They are starting their programme to know the number of people that are suffering from HIV/AIDS condition.
They are now with us organising training for our people and assisting those who are suffering from the disease to live worthy life; take their drugs and take care of the children.
What is your take on Governor AbdulRazaq gender mainstreaming?
On gender mainstreaming, the interest of the state governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq is on improving women participation in decision making processes. We have been able to do that. As we all know, we have five female candidates seeking to get seats in the state House of Assembly. That is the highest in Nigeria based on available record that I have accessed. It was not easy, but the ministry had to reach out to stakeholders for the feat to be achieved. The current chairperson for women affairs in the state House of Assembly is a man. I asked him the other time whether he had gone through pains of child-bearing, monthly call, lactation and breastfeeding and all that.
What are the significances of some International days celebration to your ministry?
On some international days, for the day of the girl-child and the use of illicit drugs, we looked at our data at the ministry to know the areas that we have excessive drug abuse. Then we decided to go to Osi, Ekiti local government area of the state. We also went to Offa because of the number of higher institutions that are domiciled there. In Kwara central, we went to Kwara State Polytechnic and Kwara State University (KWASU), Malete for Kwara north. Hitherto, the ministry did not have reliable and accurate data. We are celebrating the girl-child to call the attention of the society to what are the pains the girl-child undergoes daily. On child trafficking normally, we collaborate with NAPTIP. Kwara state is the transit and
recruitment centre for child trafficking. It is common place in Kwara north and central the rate of child trafficking in the state given available report is one of the highest in the South-west. It is the lowest in the north because the state stands at the recruitment space and the exit point the attention has now shifted here. The state now has its NAPTIP office. Unlike before that we had to go
to Osun state courtesy of the governor.
Tell us about how your ministry is dealing with sexual and gender based violence.
Sexual and gender-based violence is one of the focuses of this ministry. Thank God the wife of the governor, Mrs. Olufolake AbdulRazaq has taken that as her pet project. On that, we have been able to go all out to get Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law signed. Because of all these, some non governmental organisations are coming in to partner with us.
It is now a crime for anyone to abuse his children, wife, husband or abandon his family etc. The issue of sexual and gender-based violence is complex.There are penalties for any man to abandon the family. It ranges between N500,000 and one million Naira. The law was signed in 2020 and our partners have simplified it for us in Yoruba and English.The ministry has benefited from the recently signed gender composition law. That is why the ministry now has gender equity unit. The unit will be handling issues of interest relating to the women folks and the girl-children.
What is your ministry doing on women empowerment?
We have been empowering our people, especially women. Recently, we distributed gas cylinders to people devoid of any political considerations.
Beneficiaries of the empowerment numbering about 4,100 were artisans, interest groups, International Federation of Women Lawyers, Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN) etc. The governor has done so well for this ministry. We spent millions to resuscitate it and we have not generated up to N500,000. Nigerian women are praying for the governor. They appreciated him; that is why awards have been pouring in for him because he is the champion of ‘he for she’.This will surely rob off on his chances at the 2023 governorship election, because Kwara women are appreciative. If I have a programme and pick my phone to invite the women groups by 6am any day, all of them will be here across all party lines. Even the party has been complaining. Whatever we do here, we spread it so that everybody can have accss to it. Kwara women are not ingrates; they can see the difference. They can see that he has brought so many new things and he is bringing more. I know with what he has been able to do, right-thinking women will definitely put their thumbs in where their hearts are. They will give their votes to that man that has done so much for them. This is because to whom much is given, much is expected. Definitely, the women are already coming here. You can see mass defections from other parties to APC because the governor has done much.
As far as our party is concerned, he has done well. Definitely, women are always rational in our decision making and they will give their thumbs to that man that has done so much for them. The women are with him. When women are with you, God is with you.